The Celtics and Heat are set to face off in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2012 postseason. The Celtics went 2-1 against the Heat during the regular season, but those matchups mean little now since just one came after the trade deadline and neither came with either team at close to full strength. We already broke down the Heat offense vs. Celtics defense this morning so let's turn the tables and zero in on how the Celtics offense can succeed against a good but not great Miami defense.
- Offensive rating: 111.9 (seventh) | Playoffs: 112.9 (fifth)
- Defensive rating: 109.3 (12th) | Playoffs: 105.4 (fourth)
- Pace: 27th
- Offensive rating: 112.8 (fourth) | Playoffs: 111.2 (seventh)
- Defensive rating: 106.5 (fourth) | Playoffs: 102.7 (first)
- Pace: 17th
HEAT DEFENSIVE STRENGTHS
Rebounding: This is somewhat surprising given their lack of size on the frontline but Miami has been a top-3 defensive rebounding team in both the regular season and postseason so far. The man most responsible for that is Bam Adebayo, who has piled up nearly 12 rebounds per game in the postseason. After him? It’s a bit of group effort highlighted by some bulky wings that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. We know from his days in Boston that Kelly Olynyk isn’t a great rebounder but his length will give him an advantage down there against smaller players like Daniel Theis. Elsewhere, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic rebound well for guards so that’s been enough to get the job done against a couple of teams that don’t attack the offensive glass much in Indiana and Milwaukee.
That’s not to say the Celtics don’t have a decision to make on this front in testing Miami on the glass. Rob Williams and Enes Kanter are a pair of the best offensive rebounders in the league and one of them could make life tough for Adebayo and Olynyk down low at times. Since Miami doesn’t run in transition nearly as much as Toronto liked to, the C’s could look to attack the offensive glass a little bit from their wings and try to use their length advantage with guys like Brown and Tatum against Crowder, Butler and company.
Zone defense: This was a big part of the recipe for Miami’s success against the Celtics in their Orlando seeding games tilt last month. They held Boston to 18 points on 28 possessions of zone in that game according to Second Spectrum. The Celtics had their moments against the zone at times during the Raptors series but it was overall a sore spot for them as well, with Boston posting just 0.75 points per possession of zone in that series.
Seeing that Miami plays more zone than just about any team in the league, you can bet Erik Spoelstra they will try to throw Boston’s offense out of whack by mixing in unique looks all series long. They have an athletic big to man the middle in Adebayo along with some wings that can cover plenty of ground in Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder. Mixing in the zone will help ensure that the C’s can’t target too many isolation mismatches against the guards. Miami hasn’t used zone much yet in the postseason largely because they didn’t need it against the Bucks and Pacers. That should change in this series.
Defending the 3: The Heat gave up more 3-point attempts than almost any team in the regular season